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Willi Smith was one of the most successful young black fashion designers in America in the 1980s. Throughout his career, he created smart, tailored sportswear for women, designing for men in later years. These clothes were consistently injected with whimsy and irreverence.
Smith’s innovative, affordable garments, which Americans who weren’t rich and famous could enjoy, earned the title “Street Couture.” The arts scene exploding around SoHo, where Smith lived, inspired him to create clothes with a playful, yet entirely grown-up exuberance.
Smith arrived at Parsons on two scholarships in 1965, eventually dropping out to freelance in the fashion industry. He began designing for Digits Sportswear, where he met Laurie Mallet, with whom he founded his own womenswear line in 1976, WilliWear. Smith was mentored by Arthur McGee.
The hallmark of WilliWear’s aesthetic was reasonably priced, comfortable garments in natural fabrics and vivid, mixed prints. His clothes found mass appeal among a new generation of American women who entered the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s.
Smith designed WilliWear’s seasonal collections for 11 years, and was the first designer to house womenswear and menswear under the same brand. WilliWear was sold in over 500 doors, and was grossing over $25 million a year by 1986.
In 1971, Smith became the youngest designer to be nominated for a Coty Award, eventually winning the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award for Women’s Fashion, in 1983.
Smith died of pneumonia in 1987, after contracting a parasitic disease in India, which he’d spent years visiting for work. An autopsy later revealed that Smith also had AIDS.
An American chain of luxury department stores.
Jacobson Stores was a department store chain based in Jackson, Michigan. The chain operated primarily in Michigan and Florida, but also had stores in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Kansas. Jacobson's focused on apparel, fine jewelry and home furnishings. The chain entered bankruptcy in 2002 after 164 years of operation. One store in Winter Park, Florida was re-established as Jacobson's in 2004, but closed on December 21, 2011.
WNBC is the television station of the NBC television network, licensed to New York, New York.
Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower was the wife of the 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and a very popular First Lady of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
Born in Boone, Iowa, in 1896, Mamie Geneva Doud moved with her family to Colorado when she was seven. Her father retired from business, and Mamie and her three sisters grew up in a large house in Denver. During winters the family made long visits to relatives in the milder climate of San Antonio, Texas.
There, in 1915, at Fort Sam Houston, Mamie met Dwight D. Eisenhower, a young second lieutenant on his first tour of duty. She drew his attention instantly, he recalled: “a vivacious and attractive girl, smaller than average, saucy in the look about her face and in her whole attitude.” On St. Valentine’s Day in 1916 he gave her a miniature of his West Point class ring to seal a formal engagement; they were married at the Doud home in Denver on July 1.
For years Mamie Eisenhower’s life followed the pattern of other Army wives: a succession of posts in the United States, in the Panama Canal Zone; duty in France, in the Philippines. She once estimated that in 37 years she had unpacked her household at least 27 times. Each move meant another step in the career ladder for her husband, with increasing responsibilities for her.
The first son Doud Dwight or “Icky,” who was born in 1917, died of scarlet fever in 1921. A second child, John, was born in 1922 in Denver. Like his father he had a career in the army; later he became an author and served as ambassador to Belgium.
During World War II, while promotion and fame came to “Ike,” Mamie lived in Washington. After he became president of Columbia University in 1948, the Eisenhowers purchased a farm at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the first home they had ever owned. His duties as commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces–and hers as his hostess at a chateau near Paris–delayed work on their dream home, finally completed in 1955. They celebrated with a housewarming picnic for the staff from their last temporary quarters: the White House.
When Eisenhower had campaigned for President, his wife cheerfully shared his travels; when he was inaugurated in 1953, the American people warmly welcomed her as First Lady. Diplomacy–and air travel–in the postwar world brought changes in their official hospitality. The Eisenhowers entertained an unprecedented number of heads of state and leaders of foreign governments, and Mamie’s evident enjoyment of her role endeared her to her guests and to the public.
In 1961 the Eisenhowers returned to Gettysburg for eight years of contented retirement together. After her husband’s death in 1969, Mamie continued to live on the farm, devoting more of her time to her family and friends. Mamie Eisenhower died on November 1, 1979. She is buried beside her husband in a small chapel on the grounds of the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas.
The biographies of the First Ladies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The First Ladies of the United States of America,” by Allida Black. Copyright 2009 by the White House Historical Association.
Victor Alfaro is a Mexican fashion designer based in New York City. His collection is sold under the VICTOR ALFARO label, and his company’s ready-to-wear collection is available at luxury retailers such as Barneys New York, The Room, Lane Crawford, Net-a-Porter and several boutiques throughout the U.S. Alfaro also designs a home furnishings collection under the CASA by Victor Alfaro brand, sold exclusively at The Bon-Ton Stores.
Alfaro came to the U.S. in 1981 from Mexico and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1987. Since the inception of his company, he has been honored with numerous industry accolades and awards recognizing his talent, including the Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent at the 1995 CFDA Fashion Awards.
Morton Kaish (1927- ) is an American artist known for his paintings, prints, and fashion illustrations. During the 1950s and 1960s, Kaish worked as a fashion illustrator for publications such as Harper's Bazaar, Esquire, and Lord & Taylor. In addition, Kaish was a Professor of Art and Design at FIT for 25 years. While teaching at FIT, Kaish developed and led a study abroad program in Florence, Italy. Kaish has also been in Art-in-residence at a number of universities in the United States. His works have been featured in many museum exhibits across the country.